When we eagerly wait an event, like spending holidays on a sunny beach in the Maldives, it takes longer to arrive but the exams we fear come too early. Well, a new study says that this is because our perception of time passing depends on our state of mind.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Paris School of Economics, showed that different types of anticipation for an event affected how long people felt it took to arrive - what is technically called its "anticipated duration".
The feeling that you 'can't wait for something' actually made it appear to take longer to come. On the contrary, the dread of a task makes time appear to fly.
The researchers found that waiting for an event creates impatience, which means we think about the event a lot and this seems to 'expand time'.
Dreading an event, on the other hand, creates anxiety and this means we put it out of out mind and this has the effect of 'contracting time'.
The researchers said that time is not absolute but can have a certain 'elasticity', which will depend on the kind of emotions they are experiencing.
"When a person anticipates an event that generates a positive emotion, say spending the next holidays on a sunny beach in the Maldives, she may experience impatience and she may feel these longingly awaited holidays will never arrive," the Telegraph quoted the authors led by Pierre-Yves Geoffard as saying.
"The anticipated duration expands. On the other hand, if this same person faces a negative event such as a difficult exam, she may feel anxiety and time seems to fly until this event.
"Hence the sensation is one of time contracting," they added.
The study has been reported in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.